SoundCloud For Artists: Prices, Costs, Royalties & Hidden Fees
Choosing SoundCloud As Your Music Distributor
I'm an independent musician using music distribution services. In the last article I compared 3 of the main music distributors: Distrokid, Tunecore and Cdbaby. This is a direct follow-up to my previous article, adding SoundCloud to the table.
SoundCloud is a digital distributor since 2019. Their music distribution service is called SoundCloud for Artists since 2022, it has been rebranded from SoundCloud Repost.
It allows you to monetize and send your tracks to music streaming platforms like Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, etc..
In this article I will be going over everything you should know about SoundCloud for Artists, including prices, costs, royalties and hidden fees.
At the end, I will be including a realistic payout comparison that covers the 3 distributors discussed in my previous article, along with a new SoundCloud payout.
May 2023: Updated prices. Seems like SoundCloud Next Plus is gone (visually) and the first year price of Next Pro is no longer 50% off but you get 36% off for paying yearly instead of monthly (this goes beyond the first year). When logged-in, you can still access the Next Plus subscription, and the price didn't change but only shows the yearly plan.
July 2023: SoundCloud Next Plus is still available through the link above (SoundCloud needs to be open and your account logged-in, or it will redirect you to the login page). Added a screenshot of what you are supposed to see into the "SoundCloud Next Plus (Discontinued)" dropdown section.
August 2023: New feature: SoundCloud First Fans. A new section "Additional Information & Features" contains information about this (towards the end of the article).
October 2023: A 30-day free trial is now applied to a yearly plan first (for new clients). If you cancel it, the songs you've sent during that time will be deleted. At the end of the free trial you will be billed for the yearly plan.
Table Of Contents
SoundCloud For Artists
SoundCloud's Free Plan
The free plan is called SoundCloud Next.
You can upload up to 3 hours of your music for free on SoundCloud. But, unless you choose one of the monthly plans, you wont be able to monetize your music.
With the free plan, your music will only be on SoundCloud, and you wont earn any money from listeners streaming your tracks.
You can still add a "buy link" to your track, which enables you to redirect listeners to your website or to any other marketplaces, such as Bandcamp.
SoundCloud Next Plus (Discontinued)
For a flat fee of $2.50 per month, SoundCloud will send your music to streaming platforms like Spotify and allow you to enable monetization on the tracks you have on SoundCloud itself.
SoundCloud Next Plus will cost you $30 per year.
The 3 hours track limit still applies in SoundCloud Next Plus.
May-July 2023: You can still get this (yearly only), see the update note above the table of contents.
SoundCloud Next Pro
For a flat fee of $11 per month, you will be able to upload unlimited tracks, a promotional 36% discount applies for a yearly purchase.
SoundCloud Next Pro will cost you $85 per year if you pay yearly or $132 per year if you pay monthly.
You now also get 30 days free prior to your yearly payement as part of a free trial since October 2023.
The best thing about this, is that it also includes the YouTube Content ID. Both SoundCloud Plus and Pro will get your music in the YouTube CID and allow you a total (per-track) control over claims right from your dashboard.
This means that you have a total control over which videos (either yours or from other people using your music) you wish to whitelist. Only Distrokid gives a similar per-video control.
This part is a game changer and very important for the payout comparison. Read carefully.
SoundCloud is a little bit out-of-the-box with a special system of fan-powered royalties.
With any other distributor, you can't monetize on SoundCloud, only choosing a monthly plan will allow you to do so.
Here is how the royalties work:
If someone listen to your music and only your music: you get a 100% share of their paid subscription.
If someone listen to your music and other artists music: you get a certain % based on how long that person has listened to you.
Example: User A spent 1h listening to your music, 1h listening to other musicians. You get a 50% share.
Example 2: User B spent 1h listening to your music, 9h listening to other musiciens. You get a 10% share (1h of a total of 1h+9h=10h is 10%).
SoundCloud's Hidden Fees
SoundCloud will take 20% of everything you earn.
You will keep 80% of the revenue.
There are no exceptions, or any other fees, on top of this 80/20 split in addition to the price that you already pay monthly for their service.
SoundCloud also has a publishing service, where no cut percentage is specified. You can apply by filling a form. I don't know what kind of "deal" you get, because they do not disclose this information anywhere.
Payout Comparison: SoundCloud vs Distrokid, Tunecore & Cdbaby
"Let's say that your average payout per stream is $0.003, that means that you get roughly $0.01 every 3 streams.
This is your first year and your first album. You got a combined 30,000 streams on all platforms (excluding socials), making your payout $100. And you got a combined 30,000 streams on social platforms, adding another $100.
Your total payout is $200"
These were the final results for each distributor, after all fees were deducted:
In this exact same scenario, here is what you get from SoundCloud:
You choose Next Plus ($30/year): you get 200-30-(200*0.2)=$130
You choose Next Pro ($85/year): you get 200-85-(200*0.2)=$75
Note: 200*0.2=40, this is the 80/20 revenue split.
Hold on, where are the streams from SoundCloud itself?
Here we are in the important part, about the royalties that you should have read carefully, because I marked it as such.
Repeating this: No other distributor can monetize your music on SoundCloud but SoundCloud itself.
You got a total of 60k streams that don't include your SoundCloud streams. I will take a random 10k streams as reference, which may or may not be accurate, but you'll see the results with that amount.
You have now 10k extra streams, worth $33 that nobody outside of SoundCloud itself can monetize, because it's on their own platform, with their own custom fan royalty shares.
The average per stream with their custom system is still the same as the competition. This number includes the % they take, so 10k streams are worth roughly $33.
This is what you actually get now:
You choose Next Plus: you get 130+33=$163
You choose Next Pro: you get 75+33=$108
The streams you get on the platform itself are very important for the final payout, you can see that only 10k streams added $33 already, 20k streams would add $66, 30k streams would add $99.
Additional Information & Features
Does SoundCloud Takedown Your Music?
Based on a few comments about this that I found. SoundCloud did not takedown the music of people that cancelled their yearly plans.
So, unlike Tunecore and Distrokid; SoundCloud does not pull your music off the streaming platforms, if you stop paying.
Warning: If you cancel during the new free trial introduced in October 2023, they do take down the music you uploaded during that free trial.
SoundCloud First Fans
A new feature as of August 2023, SoundCloud First Fans will push your new uploads to 100 people based on their listening taste.
This new feature is part of the Next Pro plan for no additional cost.
Choosing SoundCloud for music distribution or not will depend on the amount of streams you have on it. A high amount of streams on the platform will make it better then the competition, a low amount will make it worse.
In almost all cases, there is a little trick that I thought about that will allow you to maximize your earnings:
First, use Tunecore or Distrokid as your main distributor (keep 100% of sales & downloads instead of 80%)
Then, add SoundCloud as a standalone without distributing your music to other platforms, only to monetize on SoundCloud itself (once you have a high enough amount of streams on it, to break even on the subscription cost)
This is a win-win situation and will allow you to keep 100% (excluding social platforms) while also being able to earn money from your streams on SoundCloud.
To break-even on the Next Plus subscription ($30/year), you will first need about 10k streams per year (valued at $33) on SoundCloud.
May 2023: Once they discontinue Next Plus this wont work anymore. It will still be possible on Next Pro, but to even out there, it will require way more streams (about 26k).
Free streams on SoundCloud do not generate any revenue. If your music happens to attract a lot of free listeners then the payout per stream may not be accurate.
It's global data, so it can fluctuate on a case by case basis. Overall, the more streams you get the more accurate it gets.